This being Women’s History Month, the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Nassau County chose to honor four women who have a symbiotic relationship to its core mission: they are all in the business of disseminating information. The “Women in Media” celebration, held on March 13 at Verdi’s in Westbury, touched on many ways the honorees have aided the LWV’s long involvement with the most crucial process in our representative democracy: creating informed and engaged citizens who will cast a ballot.
The four honorees were Angela Susan Anton of Anton Media Group; Shirley Ann Bruno, 30-plus-year manager of the Public Access Television Corp.; Silvana Diaz, publisher and co-owner of La Noticia, a Spanish-language weekly founded by her parents in 1991; and Alisha Laventure, weekend morning anchor and general assignment reporter at News 12 Long Island.
Anton is publisher and CEO of the Anton Media Group, the largest privately-held newspaper group in New York State with 18 papers providing hyperlocal coverage. Anton’s mission is to give a voice to those organizations and community members who are often overlooked by the larger media. Her philanthropic efforts have been recognized by a succession of county executives and town supervisors.
Paula Blum of the LWV introduced Anton, relating that “her newspaper group helped our league for several years by printing, at very reduced rates, our voters’ guides and distributing them to the parts of the county her newspapers covered.”
Anton stated, “I applaud the League for the work you do to make sure that every citizen can vote, that every vote is counted, and every voter has fair and unbiased non-partisan information about the candidates and issues on the ballot.”
Bruno said her organization’s mission dovetailed with that of the LWV, that is, keeping the electorate informed through broadcasts of local government at work. The two groups have worked closely to host candidates’ forums for local races. Twice-nominated for a New York Emmy for her work, Bruno has served on many boards and is an advocate of media literacy.
Diaz identified herself as a “millennial,” that cohort that has drawn so much attention and sociological interest. She noted that it’s a diverse and multiracial group, and reaching these youth has been one of the big questions of media at every level.
“I appreciate the long and rich history there is here in this room,” Diaz said, “and all the work the League and that everyone in this room has done to pave the way for us.”
A sprightly senior, Marion Fleming, introduced Laventure. and reminded the audience how far women had come since the beginning of our country. She related that “growing up in the ’40s, and going to college in the ’50s, there were so few opportunities for us. If you didn’t become a schoolteacher, you had to become a nurse or a secretary.”
Laventure quoted stats that spoke of the continuing struggle women in media faced to achieve equality of opportunity.
“As far as we have come, there is still so much more to go,” she said, and went on to say of her fellow honorees, “Their accomplishments are a role model and an example for me, just starting out in my career,” she said.
Trump… And The Women’s Vote
Since this is a presidential election year, it is little wonder that the ghost of Donald Trump as channeled by guest speaker Joye Brown made an appearance at the “Women in Media” luncheon.
Brown, a Newsday columnist, stumped everyone when she asked who they thought the most crucial swing voting group in the past several elections has been.
The surprising answer? Suburban women.
“How do you think suburban women will vote this time around?” Brown asked the dozens in attendance.
Several answers were bandied about.
“I will submit to you that we don’t know, that we have absolutely no idea,” Brown stated. “Donald Trump has rewritten every rule that there is. Everything that you thought that you knew, you could throw out…And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
Brown lamented the “cocooning” of the public citizen, accessing only information that will confirm his beliefs and prejudices.
“We have diced and sliced our media, to the point where I can go an entire year and never listen to anybody I disagree with,” she said, noting that this isolation and refusal to acknowledge an opposing point of view has had a bad effect on our democracy.
The electorate is scared, fearing the unknown, the terrorists and an uncertain economic future. The appeal of Trump, she noted, is that he comes across as authoritarian. He tells his followers, “I’m going to fix your problems; I’m going to listen to you. Your concerns will be
put into policy.”
To those who would express surprise that Trump is leading in polls in Long Island, Brown had a simple answer.
“Have you looked around Long Island lately? No single area has been left unaffected,” she pointed out. “People are stressed out. The middle class is getting smaller.”
Ultimately, Brown expressed her faith in the American people making the right choice. And though there will be rough days ahead, she believes that we will get the kind of leadership we need and a government that works, and where “compromise is not a dirty word.”